Don’t tell me to “stay safe”’

Don’t. Just don’t. Sometimes kindly meant words are the worst.

On May 8th Trump pulled out of the disastrous Iran Deal. Almost immediately afterward Israeli citizens were warned that there would likely be an attack from Iranians based in Syria and communities in the Golan were instructed to make sure their bomb shelters were open.

And they did attack, shooting 20 large missiles at Israel. Thankfully not a single one hit their target and instead the IAF wiped out much of the Iranian infrastructure in Syria in the largest operation in Syria in 40 years. The perfection of the military maneuver, brilliantly timed with the preceding diplomatic efforts was nothing short of stunning.

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But I digress.

As soon as friends abroad heard about the instructions to open bomb shelters messages started pouring in saying “stay safe”, speaking of the threat Israelis face with missiles pointed at us.

Kind, caring people, genuinely concerned and yet very annoying.

It took me a while to figure out my reaction. Why should these well-intended words grate on my nerves so much? Is it the word “safe” or possibly the word “stay”? One assumes that safety is possible in the reality we live in. The other assumes that we have been safe and can remain so. Both assumptions are completely disconnected from our reality.

I think that’s what aggravated me.

No one seems to understand the tightrope we walk. Either people see Israel as a completely normal country whose citizens live privileged lives or as a dangerous war zone of constant fear and horror. Neither is true.

BOTH are true and that is a reality too complicated for most people to comprehend.

We don’t fit in the boxes that suit other people. We are a category unto ourselves.

Israelis live in the shadow of existential threat every single day. We raise kids and go on picnics with our families. We create beautiful art and world-changing inventions that improve every aspect of life. We help people in trouble, all over the world, all the time WHILE our own lives are in danger.

We are happy and live life to the maximum – while people are constantly trying to murder us. This isn’t an expression of paranoia or an exaggeration. This is a simple statement of fact. In the same vein, the instruction to open bomb shelters was not a sign of a sudden escalation in danger, it was purely a logical precaution considering the immediacy of the danger that is sometimes a moment away and sometimes happening in the specific moment. The fact that I am writing this from my desk and not sitting in a bomb shelter doesn’t mean that now I am “safe”.

Israelis have been asking themselves when the next war will be since the last one ended.  We joke about it and hope that the war won’t ruin our vacation plans (wars seem to have a way of happening in the summer, though not always).

Israelis have been discussing the massive amounts of missiles Hezbollah has received from Iran since the 2006 war. Many people in the north of Israel are certain they heard signs of tunneling underneath their homes (Hamas learned about using tunnels for fighting from Hezbollah, not the other way around). The IDF has been discussing the possibility of evacuating towns in northern Israel when the war starts. It is understood that Hezbollah might succeed in infiltrating the country and taking over an entire town creating a hostage crisis and the necessity for urban battle inside our own country.

We are not talking about IF a war happens. The only question is WHEN it will happen.

Iran on our border just made things ten thousand times worse. Thanks to Obama / Kerry / Clinton foreign policy we actually ended up with ISIS, Al Qaeda offshoots AND Iran on our border.

Which threat would you prefer? Even with the threat of ISIS, Hezbollah has been the real danger but they are only a proxy of their master, Iran, a country controlled by ayatollahs whose religious belief dictates that they must wash the world in blood for their messiah to come. What better way to do this than begin with Israel, the Nation who originally rejected their religion?

Political adversaries can be reasoned with. Religious fanatics are a completely different story. Looking the other way when fanatics, hell-bent on wiping another nation off the face of the earth races towards attaining the weapons that will enable them to achieve their goal is nothing short of evil.

Our Prime Minister has been explaining this to the world for years (take a look at this interview from 2006!). Now everyone is being forced to see how right he was all this time.

The possibilities of how horrible the next war could get are so shocking most people just blank out on the very real probabilities. We are talking about so many missiles being shot at once that our missile defense systems will not be able to protect the population, people being trapped in bomb shelters for heaven only knows how long (how does one prepare enough food, water, peace of mind to last that out?), a ground invasion, hostages and probably another front on our southern border with Hezbollah and Hamas attacking in tandem.

Our enemies will not win but the estimates of how many Israelis could die are staggering.

WE know these things when we go to sleep at night, when we get up the next morning trying to figure out how to produce clean water for people in India, cure cancer and save endangered species. We know these things when we laugh at jokes and celebrate winning the Eurovision.

We’re not safe so we can’t “stay safe.” Israel isn’t safe and frankly Jews anywhere else are not safe. Those who believe they are safe live in a comforting illusion that can pop in an instant, with disastrous results. We in Israel at least understand what we are facing… and yet we are not hunkered down in a corner, shaking with fear. THAT seems to be what the world cannot understand.

How is it possible that a nation could be so extraordinarily brave? (Remember – bravery is not the lack of fear, it is being afraid and doing what is necessary despite the fear.)
How could a people so terribly abused be so gracious and bring so much benefit to others, including to their abusers? How could a people counter so much hate with so much love?

The dichotomy is so extreme it seems inhuman and thus impossible. That is why so many try so hard to “catch the Jew”, to discover some evil that Jews, particularly Israel is committing. The idea that Israel is just as bad as their worst (the Jew is the new Nazi syndrome) is more comforting than accepting and possibly (heaven forbid!) emulating the light of Israel.

Safety is a luxury we don’t have. We don’t expect anyone to provide us with safety. We’re not waiting to be rescued. What would be nice is if, at least, our friends and well-wishers truly understood the reality we live in.

We don’t do “safe”.  (Since when have Jews, in the history of the world, actually been safe?!). That’s not what we are here for.

We do love.
We protect others.
We lead by example.
And when we have to do it alone, we do it alone.
Eventually, I believe, others will follow.

In the meantime, don’t tell me to “stay safe.”

7 thoughts on “Don’t tell me to “stay safe”’

  1. How about: “Let’s keep watching out for each other” ~ This implies that the present already requires us to watch out for each other, that we have plans about how to watch out for each other, and we are renewing our promise to strengthen each other….Comments????


  2. People care. When they love you and know you are in somebody’s Gunsite, they don’t know what to say. Every Israeli must also do what is needed to ensure safety. Warfare is a series of events that goes the full range from silence to all hell breaking loose.
    Then there are truces. They have a start time, but you never know when they will end, but they will. A truce gives time to evacuate the dead and wounded, or retreat. But it also gives the enemy time to reload and recoup. And while the start of a truce is timed, it’s ending is usually a surprise to one of the parties. You just never know when that time will be.
    The world watches, and some will wish you well, while others won’t, because they hate you, or just don’t care. It could never happen to them (eye roll). But when those peaceful times, between shots, is coming to an end, we begin to worry. There are many factors, and situational awareness is important. People want you to be safe. They say so, though they know you have no choice. There is no clear battlefield with terrorists. One day, they are a group of soldiers, and the next, they are infiltrators. So, be careful as you walk down the street. You are the front line, wherever you may step.


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